RIGA - Latvia does not believe that the inauguration ceremony held today legitimizes and authorizes the former President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to hold the sixth term of office, emphasizes the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
As Janis Bekeris, the press secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informed LETA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that such a step will only deepen the political crisis in Belarus. The next president of Belarus can be elected only by the people of Belarus in free and fair elections in the presence of international observers, emphasizes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates its position that the August 9 presidential elections in Belarus were neither free nor fair. Latvia does not recognize the results of these elections. Latvia does not consider Alexander Lukashenko to be the legitimate president of Belarus.
According to the ministry, Latvia will currently "leave open diplomatic channels for cooperation with Belarus at the technical level".
The AFP news agency reports that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in for a sixth term at a secret ceremony held with no prior announcement, the Belta state news agency reported Wednesday.
Lukashenko has faced massive demonstrations against his rule in Minsk and other cities since claiming victory in disputed elections on August 9, and has made only rare appearances in public view.
"Alexander Lukashenko has taken office as President of Belarus. The inauguration ceremony is taking place in these minutes in the Palace of Independence," the news agency reported.
Earlier independent news agencies reported that streets were closed as Lukashenko's motorcade raced through the capital Minsk, prompting speculation that the inauguration was due to take place, while there was no official confirmation.
Lukashenko's official website did not make any announcement and the ceremony was not shown live on state television, apparently to avoid protesters gathering.
The 66-year-old leader, in power since 1994, viewed one protest rally from his helicopter, describing the demonstrators as "rats," and later disembarked in a bullet-proof vest, carrying a Kalashnikov.
He has sought backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has promised him law enforcement backup if needed, as well as a USD 1.5 billion loan.
His main opposition rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, claimed she won the election but has taken shelter in Lithuania, while Lukashenko has jailed or driven out other key opposition figures.
European Union foreign ministers on Monday failed to agree sanctions over the political crisis, despite a plea for support from Tikhanovskaya.
Cyprus, which has good relations with Russia, has vetoed proposed EU sanctions.